Could Early Intervention Reverse Autism
In most cases autism spectrum disorder is not diagnosed in a child until they are three or four years old. However, new research is adding to the evidence that early detection and intervention are key. A study published today suggests that if treatment begins as early as the first six months of life, it can vastly improve a child’s outcome and possibly even eliminate symptoms.
The impact of early interventions can be so great that in some cases an autistic child who received therapy as a baby will no longer exhibit signs of the disorder by age 3, according to a new study published in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders.
The study tested a 12-week treatment plan on seven autistic infants aged 7 to 15 months who were already exhibiting signs of the disorder. After families took part in the program, researchers followed up with the children over a three-year period.
Though the children diagnosed with autism exhibited clear symptoms of the disorder at nine months old compared with the control group, the researchers found that by ages 18 months and 36 months they were less symptomatic. Overall, the children who received the interventions in the first year of their life had fewer language delays, symptoms and general developmental delays.
A Good Treatment Plan Will:
- Build on your childs interests.
- Offer a predictable schedule.
- Teach tasks as a series of simple steps.
- Actively engage your childs attention in highly structured activities.
- Provide regular reinforcement of behavior.
- Involve the parents.
Choosing autism treatments
There are many different options and approaches to ASD treatment, including behavior therapy, speech-language therapy, physical therapy, occupational therapy, and nutritional therapy.
While you dont have to limit your child to just one treatment at a time, its unlikely youll be able to address everything at once. Instead, start by focusing on your childs most severe symptoms and pressing needs.
Communicate With Your Team
Communicating with the doctor, therapist, teachers, and other healthcare providers can help make your daily tasks a lot easier.
For parents, this can mean asking for suggestions to continue practicing the skills your child is learning in therapy, which makes it easier for them to be more successful.
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Early Intervention For Autism Is Important My Son Is Proof Of That
For the first time in 12 years, the American Academy of Pediatrics updated its guidelines this week for diagnosing children with autism, focusing on the importance of intervention and therapy, even in infants.
If there were a poster child who further underscored that, my 5-year-old son would be him.
When my son was diagnosed with autism at about 2 years old, he started therapy immediately. By the time he began kindergarten this year, all of his behavior seemed age-appropriate. He was social and talkative, a ringleader among his peers. In comparison, his 7-year-old brother, also diagnosed with autism as a toddler, still struggles with social interactions, with changes in his routine and with rigid, repetitive behavior classic signs of autism.
I wasnt all that surprised when the developmental pediatrician officially confirmed last week, after additional testing and evaluation, that my youngest son no longer meets the criteria for autism.
Ive started to tell people slowly because Ive been hesitant to perpetuate the idea that he was cured. That suggests there is something inherently wrong with being autistic or something to celebrate now that he isnt. When my youngest son learned he wasnt autistic anymore, he solemnly brought the news home to his brother. Youre autistic, and thats okay, he told his brother. But Im not. Were different. He grieved this loss, of what he perceived to be a shared exceptionalism, for days.
Thats good enough for me.
Are Siblings At Greater Risk For Autism Spectrum Disorder
The truth is that genetics do play a role in autism. When one child is diagnosed with ASD, the next child to come along has about a 20% greater risk of developing autism than normal. When the first two children in a family have both been diagnosed with ASD, the third child has about a 32% greater risk of developing ASD.
How Is Autism Spectrum Disorder Treated
ASD is most often a life-long condition. Both children and adults with autism benefit from behavioral interventions or therapies that can teach new skills to address the core deficits of autism and to reduce the core symptoms. Every child and adult with autism is unique. For this reason, the treatment plan is individualized to meet specific needs. It is best to begin interventions as soon as possible, so the benefits of therapy can continue on throughout the course of life.
Many people with ASD often have additional medical conditions, such as gastrointestinal and feeding issues, seizures and sleep disturbances. Treatment can involve behavioral therapy, medications or both.
Early intensive behavioral treatments involves the entire family and possibly a team of professionals. As your child ages and develops, treatment may be modified to cater to their specific needs.
During adolescence, children benefit from transition services that promote skills of independence essential in adulthood. The focus at that point is on employment opportunities and job skill training.
What Is Autism Spectrum Disorder Previously Called Autism And Pervasive Developmental Disorders
Autism spectrum disorder is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by the following:
- Difficulties in social communication differences, including verbal and nonverbal communication.
- Deficits in social interactions.
- Restricted, repetitive patterns of behavior, interests or activities and sensory problems
Many of those with ASD can have delayed or absence of language development, intellectual disabilities, poor motor coordination and attention weaknesses.
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Early Diagnosis And Treatment Of Hereditary And Celiac Diseases
The hereditary diseases like phenylketonuria is caused by the deficiency of a liver enzyme and are required to digest phenylalanine. The early diagnosis and treatment of phenylketonuria can reduce the chances of having an Autistic child after pregnancy. Similarly, the celiac diseases diagnosis and treatment can also reduce the potential chances of the child having Autism.
There Are Likely To Be Many Types Of Autism Or Autisms
There is growing scientific evidence that autism is a highly complex and highly heterogeneous disorder, and that we should be speaking of autisms rather than one single autism. This means that the causes, the underlying biology that results in the surface symptoms of autism, will differ from individual to individual.
Just as there will never be ONE cure for all types of cancer, there will almost certainly never be ONE cure, or treatment, for all types of autism.
A good example of this is that there are now several known congenital disorders with extremely high prevalence of autism children with Congenital Heart Disease , Tuberous Sclerosis Complex , Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy , Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome all suffer much higher rates of autism than healthy children.
The underlying biological pathways that lead to the emergence of autism in those disorders are likely very different, and so one would not expect ONE single treatment to lead to a reduction in autism symptoms across all those disorders.
For example, while everolimus treatment has been observed to ameliorate core autism symptoms in children with TSC , it would not be expected to have the same effect on autism symptoms in children with the other congenital disorders.
When it comes to idiopathic autism, meaning all individual cases of autism for whom there has been no investigation of underlying causes, it is to be expected that once those causes are uncovered they will likely be very different and varied.
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Aba Speech And Language Therapies
Therapeutic Pathways offers speech and language therapy through integrated ABA treatment to help individuals with ASD improve their verbal, nonverbal, and social communication skills. We help children and adolescents with ASD communicate in more functional ways to express their thoughts, feelings, and needs.
Some of the goals we work towards improving or developing include:
- Improving spoken language
- Learning nonverbal cues such as gestures and facial expressions
- Learning to communicate through images or technology
An important part of our integrated speech therapy is helping individuals with ASD learn how to effectively communicate in social settings. At Therapeutic Pathways, our Behavior Analysts and RBTs provide the social skills groups with typically developing peers to further develop competency in interactions and observational learning.
Helping Your Child With Autism Thrive Tip : Provide Structure And Safety
Learning all you can about autism and getting involved in treatment will go a long way toward helping your child. Additionally, the following tips will make daily home life easier for both you and your child with ASD:
Be consistent. Children with ASD have a hard time applying what theyve learned in one setting to others, including the home. For example, your child may use sign language at school to communicate, but never think to do so at home. Creating consistency in your childs environment is the best way to reinforce learning. Find out what your childs therapists are doing and continue their techniques at home. Explore the possibility of having therapy take place in more than one place in order to encourage your child to transfer what he or she has learned from one environment to another. Its also important to be consistent in the way you interact with your child and deal with challenging behaviors.
Stick to a schedule. Children with ASD tend to do best when they have a highly-structured schedule or routine. Again, this goes back to the consistency they both need and crave. Set up a schedule for your child, with regular times for meals, therapy, school, and bedtime. Try to keep disruptions to this routine to a minimum. If there is an unavoidable schedule change, prepare your child for it in advance.
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When To Seek Medical Advice
Early intervention is very important in children with autism spectrum disorder. Services such as speech therapy and behavioral and skills training are more effective if begun when a child is young.
For this reason, it is helpful to receive a diagnosis as early as possible. However, many children remain undiagnosed until they are in school. Some people are not diagnosed until they are adults.
If you suspect someone has autism, including yourself, contact a medical professional as soon as possible.
What Is The Outlook For People With Autism Spectrum Disorder
In many cases, the symptoms of ASD become less pronounced as a child gets older. Parents of children with ASD may need to be flexible and ready to adjust treatment as needed for their child.
People with ASD may go on to live typical lives, but there is often need for continued services and support as they age. The needs depend on the severity of the symptoms. For most, it’s a lifelong condition that may require ongoing supports.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Through research, there has been much that has been learned about autism spectrum disorder over the past 20 years. There is ongoing active research on the causes of ASD, early detection and diagnosis, prevention and treatments.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 12/29/2020.
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Signs Of Autism In Babies
Some parents recognize autism signs when their child is 6-12 months old, depending on the symptoms and their severity. Pay attention to whether or not the baby is reacting to social information and the environment. Within the first year of life, babies start to babble and use gestures like pointing, says Dr. Frazier, adding that babies may also smile at their caregivers. Baby noises should have some social function as well, and they should try communicating with parents. Babies with autism sometimes fail to communicate through sounds or gestures, and may not respond to social stimulation.
Here are other early signs of autism, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention .
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Behavior And Communication Therapy
There is a wide range of social, speech, and behavioral difficulties associated with autism spectrum disorder. ABA therapy can help children, teenagers, and adults with autism develop the skills to better interact with others, including emotional regulation and appropriate social interaction. We dont just show them how to interact, we facilitate the learning process and interact with them directly.
Many experts consider ABA the most studied intervention for autism. Its a structured scientific approach that teaches social skills, communication, self-care, and many other skills through methods of repetition and reinforcement. Most individuals who have autism struggle in at least one of these areas, and our experienced ABA therapists are here to guide, teach, and support our clients towards their individual goals.
There are volumes of research suggesting that this approach can also reduce problematic behaviors in individuals with ASD. Therapeutic Pathways has had great success in helping children and adolescents achieve independence through ABA.
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Autism Spectrum Disorder Definition And Facts
Autism is a complex developmental disorder that has the following three defining core features:
A number of other associated symptoms frequently coexist with autism.
- Most people with autism have problems using language, forming relationships, and appropriately interpreting and responding to the external world around them.
- Autism is a behaviorally defined developmental disorder that begins in early childhood.
- Although the diagnosis of autism may not be made until a child reaches preschool or school age, the signs and symptoms of autism may be apparent by the time the child is aged 12-18 months, and the behavioral characteristics of autism are almost always evident by the time the child is aged 3 years.
- Language delay in the preschool years is typically the presenting problem for more severely affected children with autism. Higher functioning children with autism are generally identified with behavioral problems when they are aged approximately 4-5 years or with social problems later in childhood.
- Autism disorder persists throughout the person’s lifetime, although many people are able to learn to control and modify their behavior to some extent.
All of these disorders are characterized by varying degrees of problems with communication, social interaction, and atypical, repetitive behaviors.
Prenatal Factors That May Contribute To Autism
Taking antidepressants during pregnancy, especially in the first 3 months.
Nutritional deficiencies early in pregnancy, particularly not getting enough folic acid.
The age of the mother and father
Complications at or shortly after birth, including very low birth weight and neonatal anemia
Maternal infections during pregnancy.
Exposure to chemical pollutants, such as metals and pesticides, while pregnant.
More research on these prenatal risk factors is needed, but if youre pregnant or trying to conceive, it cant hurt to take steps now to reduce your babys risk of autism.
Reducing the risk of autism: Tips for expectant mothers
Take a multivitamin. Taking 400 micrograms of folic acid daily helps prevent birth defects such as spina bifida. Its not clear whether this will also help reduce risk of autism, but taking the vitamins cant hurt.
Ask about SSRIs. Women who are taking an SSRI should talk with a clinician about all the risks and benefits of these drugs. Untreated depression in a mother can also affect her childs well-being later on, so this is not a simple decision to make.
Practice prenatal care. Eating nutritious food, trying to avoid infections, and seeing a clinician for regular check-ups can increase the chances of giving birth to a healthy child.
Source: Harvard Health Publications
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Tip : Find Nonverbal Ways To Connect
Connecting with a child with ASD can be challenging, but you dont need to talkor even touchin order to communicate and bond. You communicate by the way you look at your child, by the tone of your voice, your body language and possibly the way you touch your child. Your child is also communicating with you, even if he or she never speaks. You just need to learn the language.
Look for nonverbal cues. If you are observant and aware, you can learn to pick up on the nonverbal cues that children with ASD use to communicate. Pay attention to the kinds of sounds they make, their facial expressions, and the gestures they use when theyre tired, hungry, or want something.
Figure out the motivation behind the tantrum. Its only natural to feel upset when you are misunderstood or ignored, and its no different for children with ASD. When children with ASD act out, its often because youre not picking up on their nonverbal cues. Throwing a tantrum is their way of communicating their frustration and getting your attention.
Going Forward Achieving Better Outcomes For All
The World Health Organization declares that the highest attainable standard of health is a fundamental right for all human beings. Leaving aside entirely the idea of a cure for autism, people with autism deserve much better health care and health research than they currently enjoy.
By adequately identifying and addressing medical issues associated with autism, a wide range of individuals challenges and difficulties can potentially be reduced, including anxiety, impulsivity, headaches, poor sleep, depression, aggression, self-injury, obsessive and compulsive behaviours, gastrointestinal problems to name a few.
No one should be expected to suffer a lower standard of health simply because of an autism diagnosis, yet diagnostic overshadowingattributing medical symptoms and conditions to the diagnosis of autism and therefore not offering appropriate investigation or treatmentis widespread.
If an individuals experience of autism does not involve health problems that result in suffering, and if the symptoms of autism are not perceived to be an impediment to happiness, independence, success, an enjoyable social and personal life, and to being in control of their lives, then there would no reason to seek intervention. However, for the majority of those diagnosed with autism, there is sufficient suffering and serious disability to rightfully deserve thorough investigation and appropriate intervention.
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